‘SOUR’ GOWER’S SWEET ON ADDICKS
Swans’ pain dims
AS MUCH as he tried, Mark Gower admits he struggled to break into a smile while sat watching Swansea collect their first major trophy in February.
It was because he knew his time in South Wales was numbered – with a loan move to Charlton in the pipeline – but also because he felt alienated from the club he helped drag from the Championship to the verge of their Capital One Cup success last season.
That 5-0 hammering of Bradford brought Wembley memories flooding back for Gower, who joined the Swans as Championship new boys in 2008 from Southend.
In 2011 he came off the bench to help inspire a 4-2 play-off final victory over Reading, securing Premier League football for the first time in the club’s history.
That day, though, was also the culmination of a decade of dreaming for the midfielder who left Tottenham in 2001 without making a top flight appearance.
But after being told by Swansea boss Michael Laudrup he was no longer needed at the start of last term, the good times seemed a distant memory.
“I was in the squad that travelled to Wembley so I was involved in the day which was nice, but I knew my time was up by then,” said Gower, who joined Charlton on a permanent deal in the summer.
“As much as you try for the other lads, it’s not the same when you’re not involved – it was night and day compared to the play-off final. I tried my hardest to be pleased for the lads, but it wasn’t a great day for me personally.
“I had four of the best years of my career at Swansea, they were incredibly successful, we got to the Premier League and I fulfilled my dream.
“It was frustrating the way the final year ended. I just never got a chance, the manager basically made his mind up before he came to the club, within the first couple of weeks he said I could find a new club.
“I started at Tottenham and made two appearances, both in the League Cup. I was striving from that point for the rest of my career to get back there and play at the top level.
“When I do retire and I look back I can say I’ve made 20-odd Premier League appearances, it would have been chewing at me if I didn’t achieve that.”
Only one of his 21 Premier League appearances came last season, an illustration of the struggles he endured towards the end of his stay at the Liberty Stadium.
He joined Charlton on a short-term loan deal just 18 days after Swansea saw off Bradford at Wembley.
He made six appearances, winning four and drawing two, and it went some way towards staving off relegation for the Addicks. It also convinced boss Chris Powell to take a punt on the 34-year-old Londoner this summer on a one-year deal.
“It was only a couple of days into March that I knew something was in place,” added father-of-three Gower.
“I had a few days to get fit, then show the manager what I could do, but then Andy Hughes got injured and I ended up playing six games and we went unbeaten.
“I’m hoping to carry on for another couple of years but I wanted to get my family settled because my children are coming to an important age.
“We had a great time in Wales but we always knew we were coming back.”
So what would be a successful season for Charlton?
“You can look a fool trying to predict the Championship,” continued Gower. “But a top-half finish would be great considering we have one of the lowest budgets in the Championship.”
FRESH START: Mark Gower at Charlton. Inset: Swansea parade the League Cup